Saturday, June 5, 2010

Does Washing Produce Get Rid of Bacteria?

Most of you probably wash your produce by swishing it around in some water or rinsing it under the running tap. Quite frankly, while this may remove some surface dirt, it is virtually ineffective at removing most bacteria.

Microbes on fruits and veggies often form into tightly knit packs called biofilms. Salmonella, E. coli and other types of infectious bacteria live together in biofilms to stay out of harm’s way, and once attached they can be difficult to remove, especially on produce with rough surfaces, such as spinach or cantaloupe.

In some cases bacteria can even travel inside a plant through the roots, and in this case no amount of washing would help.

That said, there is one caveat -- washing your produce will help to remove some pesticides. So if you buy conventionally grown produce, I do recommend you wash it in clean water, not so much to remove bacteria but to help take off some pesticides. (It won’t remove them all, but it may help.)

So what’s a savvy consumer to do about bacteria on produce?

In some cases, removing the peel may help to get rid of bacteria, but often the skin is where the majority of the nutrients are so you’ll want to eat if for optimal nutrition. Plus, with lettuce and countless other produce varieties there is no skin to remove.

Your best solution to finding safe, untainted food, whether produce, meat, or dairy, is to seek out sources that are grown with safety and integrity in mind.

Tips for Cleaning Your Produce

Buying your produce from a high-quality source should be the priority, but if you’re looking for extra assurance that your produce is free of harmful microorganisms, the best system I know of is the Lotus Sanitizing System. You can find these at for around $150.

This system works by soaking the food in water saturated with ozone. The ozone is a very potent oxidizer and it will not only selectively kill all the microbes on your produce BUT, and more importantly for most of us, it will break down all the pesticides that are on the outside of the vegetables. That is the primary reason I use it.

Ozone, unlike radiation or chemicals, will not damage the vitality of the produce you are going to consume. This is FAR safer than soaking your produce in bleach water, which, while effective, may be toxic to you.

Ozone can be toxic if you breathe it in large quantities, but when it is dissolved in water and acting on the vegetables, it is completely harmless. If you own a large commercial food operation I would suggest contacting the company directly, as they have larger units that are now successfully used in many restaurants.

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